Vaccinations and Virus Testing

The core vaccinations that we provide to cats and kittens on a routine basis are an FVRCP combination vaccine {Rhinotracheitis (Herpes), Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia (Feline Parvo)} and Rabies.  The FVRCP vaccine is given in a series of three to four shots for kittens, starting when they are 6 to 8 weeks old and boostered at 12 weeks and 16 weeks. After that, the vaccination should be boostered every 1-3 years as your cat ages, depending on the individual’s lifestyle and risk factors.  Rabies is given at 4 months (16 weeks) of age, then boostered yearly.  There are 3-year feline Rabies vaccinations available, but our veterinarians recommend the non-adjuvanted Rabies vaccine which must be given yearly; this vaccine is less likely to cause tissue inflammation and reactions and is therefore safer for your cat.

In addition to the core vaccinations, there is a non-core vaccination that may be given if your kitten is considered to be at risk for the disease:

  • Feline Leukemia (FeLV) is a virus that suppresses a cat’s immune system.  There is currently no cure for feline leukemia.  The virus is transmitted by a mother cat to her kittens if the mother is infected, or by bite wounds from another cat infected with the virus (for example, stray or feral cats.) This vaccine is recommended if your kitten will be spending time outdoors unattended; if it interacts with or has exposure to known FeLV positive cats in your household; or is around other cats or kittens that go outdoors.  If you are unsure if your kitten will have access to the outdoors, the FeLV vaccine should definitely be discussed with your veterinarian.
    • We recommend testing all newly-acquired kittens and cats for FeLV and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.)

Other important things to know about the Feline Leukemia vaccination:

  • The Feline Leukemia vaccine initially requires a series of two shots, given three to four weeks apart. Following that, it requires a yearly booster.
  • When given the FeLV vaccine at the same time as the FVRCP and / or Rabies vaccination, your cat may experience fever, lethargy and decreased appetite.  Because of this, our veterinarians recommend giving the FeLV vaccinations separately – usually no sooner than 3 weeks from the completion of the FVRCP series and Rabies vaccinations.
  • Historically, some cats have experienced tumor formations at the injection site of this vaccination. It is believed to be secondary to an inflammatory response caused by a reaction to the vaccine’s adjuvant, or “carrier.” Although the incidence of tumor formation is quite rare, it must be factored into your decision about vaccinating your cat for FeLV. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask us!